“May It Be So” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of this series last year, I had many topics I was planning to introduce. When we began this series in January, the same was true. These topics related to changes in our culture over the past several years – some good, some not. And many of those changes are still in play, and gaining steam while we focus on this pandemic. But obviously the major change which affected all of us, and seemingly that impact occurred in an instant, is best known as COVID-19.

This virus has come upon us quickly, has disrupted us beyond imagination, caused major illness and tens of thousands of deaths, wrecked our economy, closed businesses, cost millions of people their jobs, closed schools, and much, much more. In other words, to repeat what I said a moment ago, we have experienced major change.

We could not have conceived any of this six months ago. But none of this caught God off guard. The world has changed drastically, but God has not changed at all. The title of this series is Constant in a World of Change. That was true about God when I conceived of the series. It was true of God when the novel coronavirus began to impact the lives of millions. That fact remains true today. And God will still be the same tomorrow and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

Two verses make this truth known to us as plainly as can be. Malachi 3.6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.” And Hebrews 13.8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Whether your primary concern right now is COVID-19 or some other matter, two things are certain – life constantly changes and God does not.

And that brings us to the Apostles’ Creed. As I have said from the first message, the Creed is not what we worship. The Creed is not what is most dear. God is to be the focus of our lives and our worship. The Creed is not even the most important writing about God – the Bible is. But the Creed is a way to capture the fundamental beliefs of our faith, particularly of the New Testament, in a short, and relatively simple approach.

The Apostles’ Creed is not the only creed. Many creeds and catechisms have been developed over the centuries. Others have developed articles of confession and statements of faith. But most every orthodox creed, catechism, confession, or statement has core elements in common. And those elements are found in the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles’ Creed is the most commonly confessed creed. It was named for the apostles because content can be traced back to what the apostles learned from Jesus and saw for themselves. The Reformers showed their respect for the Creed. Orthodox Christians down through the centuries have held these beliefs to be true, as do we today.

As I have mentioned before, the beliefs expressed in the Creed do not encapsulate everything a Christian believes. I also shared this quote from Albert Mohler’s book about the creed:

“All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.” (1)

But it is one thing to express a belief. It is another to live by it. And that is what this series was meant to be. It was meant to help us understand how each phrase in the Creed applies to our lives today so that we can not only have faith in the truth of the statements, but so that we can act on those truths in living our lives day by day.

In other words, to understand the Apostles’ Creed correctly, is to acknowledge the insufficiency of our faith until we are ready to cry out like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9.23-24).

So, let me conclude this series with the same basic thoughts I shared to introduce it. I will do that by reminding us of two answers to the question:

Why Do We Need A Creed?

Read Jude 3-4

A Creed Allows Us to Hold on to SOMETHING

We all cling to something. Just as a small child has a favorite stuffed animal or maybe a blanket, or even a pacifier, we all have something or perhaps someone. Having that something or someone close allows us to feel like our world is ok, even when we know it is not. That someone or something is stability. Security.

But most people find that security in items or even people that will soon be gone. The child outgrows the blanket and eventually the stuffed animal and toy as well. As adults, we discard what was once considered worthy – including sometimes our friends and family.

But we never forget. In fact, regardless of your age, you can probably remember an item or two from your childhood that brought you security. You probably remember your best friend whom you swore you would never lose touch. But most of us have and/or will. Why? Because we change. And what is considered valuable and helpful today does not always maintain that value over time.

In Jude 3, Jude implores his readers to contend for the faith. He is saying that they should not only hold onto what they have learned, they also need to fight for it. Others have come in disregard of the truth and perverted the message of hope God has given. What Jude is saying is that there is something worth holding tight. That something is the truth of Jesus. That something is the stories of God that have been passed down for ages. That is worthy of holding. We all will hold onto something, but we need to let the truth of God hold onto us as well.

We need to let God’s truth get deep within us. Sure, a creed is just a series of words. But words have meaning. Again, we cannot place any creed on par with the Bible because the Bible was fully inspired by God. But anything that helps us to know the core truths of the Bible without compromising those truths, is worth holding onto when we need that stability and security. The words do not replace the Bible, but they do point to it, and thus a creed can have great value to point us to the true stability and security we seek.

A Creed Allows US to Hold on to Something

It is one thing to have a belief; it is another to share it with others. Earlier this year, we saw the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. People of all walks of life bonded over watching a football team win a game. People who were young and old, rich or poor, black or white or any other color, professional or a tradesman, etc. rallied together to root for, then celebrate a championship. That shared hope of a championship created bonds for a short time.

In Jude 3, Jude wrote to a group of people about what has been delivered to the saints (which includes his audience). His appeal is not to one, but to many. He needed them to stand strong together, to fight together, to encourage one another in order that they could overcome the crowd trying to disrupt the true message of God. The group of deceivers was united to be disruptive, and Jude was exhorting his readers to be unified to refute the “certain people” as Jude calls this other group in verse 4.

Consider the strength of the bond that could happen if what we believe and what someone else believes about God is coincides. When we ask someone what they believe, we may be looking for a few key words, but we do not have them recite, or even read, the Bible to us. No, we focus on a few key facts to determine if we share the same beliefs. And that is what the Apostles’ Creed does for us. The Creed allows us to know people down the road, across the town, in another city, and around the world who share the same basic beliefs. The same is true of people throughout history. The fact that millions before us, and today believe the same should provide comfort and even assurance that we are not alone in our understanding. The Creed is not about what I believe or you believe. It is about what we believe. Yes, the words are, “I believe,” because a person’s faith is individual in one sense, but the essence of faith is to be understood and lived within community. Faith is about us. Our ability to be in direct community with one another has been challenged during this current pandemic, but holding a common belief in a constant God, has been what has helped many people through this challenging time.


As I turn work toward the conclusion of this message, and thus the series, I need to mention one more word in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed does not just contain a series of belief statements (20 truths depending upon how you count them). It ends with a single word – amen.

Therefore, these statements could be considered more than pithy statements about biblical truths; rather, we could consider it a prayer.

If we think of it as a prayer, we must understand the word amen. The word means “let it be” or “may it be so.” With that thought in mind, consider what our reciting of the Creed means. We confess a series of beliefs and then conclude with Amen, which effectively is saying, “may it be so.” In other words, after stating the truths of the Creed, we are saying “let our confessions be truly representative of what we believe.”

This idea takes me back to the man, the father, in Mark 9 who wants his boy to be healed. When confronted by Jesus about belief, the man cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (See Mark 9.14-29 for the story, and particularly verse 24 for the statement.)

The Apostles’ Creed was not developed yet, but if it had been, we could equate this man’s statement to knowing the Creed in general, maybe even having it memorized. But being able to read or memorize words does not make it real. This man wanted his faith to be real.

You and I should want no less. It is not enough to know. We must believe. And belief is always – ALWAYS – followed by action. We can say a lot of things, but we do what we truly believe to be true and important.

For us, at this time, a part of acting on our belief is to take the words of Jude as a charge to pass on the truths of God to the next generation. We are now the ones who must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That faith is, in part, represented by the Apostles’ Creed. That faith has been passed down for centuries, and now it is our turn to pass it onward. People are currently trying to “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). So what will we do?

Well, whatever we do, it must include acting on the belief we have in a God who does not change…a God who is still in control…a God who gave us His Word…and whose message is summarized in what we know as the Apostles’ Creed.


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

Whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting.

Amen. (MAY IT BE SO)


(1)  Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity In An Age Of Counterfeits, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, xvi.

“The Resurrection Life” by Pastor Andy Braams

Do you like your body? I do not know the stats, but I would guess that most people do not. Well, good news – at least for those who follow Christ. One day, we will get a new body – and one that is beyond anything you can imagine.

The truth is that your current body will die – it must die. And when it does, it will decay at a rate even faster than what some of you may think it is decaying today. It will rot. It will be garbage. Even if you are alive when Christ returns, your present body will not be the body you will receive – as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 – the perishable will be replaced by the imperishable.

So, the body you know…the body you like or dislike…the body that has grown, and aged, and thrived, and/or failed…the body that gets you where you need to go, and the body that slows you down…the body that feels good or the body that aches…however you describe your current body, it will cease. But a new one – a better one – will replace it. At least for those who have their faith in Christ.

But that is where the idea of resurrection comes into play. Resurrection is not just about coming out of the grave; it is not just coming back to some zombie type of life. It is returning in a body that was meant to truly live. To be resurrected is to be truly restored.

Let me clarify. A restored body is not patched back together, nor is it made “like new.” People can do a lot of cosmetic work on various objects to make something look good, including a body, but it is still not truly new. Of course, “like new” is better, but it is still not new. For instance, I buy a lot of books. And sometimes I will buy used books, and when I do buy a used book, I prefer ones that are “like new.” That is, they are not new, but they are not well-worn. They may have a few markings or they may have a few dog-eared corners, or perhaps the cover is slightly damaged, but for the most part the book is in very, very good shape. But I still prefer new books…because they are new!

But our new bodies will be newer than new. Not only will any decay be gone, the body will be unlike anything we can fathom. Many listening right now will have heard me say this before, but I must say it again in this context. I cannot say what our bodies will be like with any certainty, other than they will be like the body Jesus had after His resurrection. He could eat food and walk through a closed door. Frankly, our mind cannot conceive those two ideas simultaneously. But whether you can conceive it or not, that is the reality of a new body – which can one day be yours. But if we are to be resurrected like Jesus, what is the purpose?

Well, let me quickly give you three ideas. We need a new body to live eternally, to live abundantly, and to live truly.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Eternally (1 Corinthians 15.35-41)

Your current body will not last forever. Very few bodies make it 100 years. Medical advances and sanitation have extended the lifespan, but bones still brake, muscles still pull, illnesses still debilitate, and organs still fail.

However, the promise of God in John 3.16 is that those who place their faith in Jesus will have eternal life – that is, life that does not end. And for a life that will not end, you need a new body. And that body will come one day after the current one expires.

That is the promise of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. The earth has one kind of body. Heaven will have another. Just as different species have different types of bodies, so too will our physical body be different from a spiritual body (see vv. 45-47).

But I do want to make sure we understand that we do not need to wait for a new body to live eternally. We need a new body to live forever, but living eternally begins the moment you place your faith in Jesus.

That is what “your Kingdom come” means. We are not to wait until after we die to experience the Kingdom of God. No, we are taught to pray for God’s Kingdom to come – to be experienced on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus would not have taught us to pray those words if it was not possible. So, again, we need a body that will allow us to live eternally, but the beginning of that eternal life begins in this body, not after we die.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Abundantly (1 Corinthians 15.42-49)

This point about living abundantly falls perfectly between the other two.

First, our current bodies limit us from abundant living. All of us have experienced needs. We have been hungry and thirsty and tired and sick. We have been frightened and worried. We have needed compassion. We have needed love.

But the abundant living Jesus promises will include a new body built for a new place where hunger and thirst are no more. We will not be tired. We will never grow sick. Our fears will cease and being in the presence of the Lord will remove all worries. But best of all, the presence of love will be unlike anything we can fathom. Sure, the street will be gold, and the gates made of pearl, but those things will mean little to us – which shows what true abundance really is.

Second, abundant living will mean we will be able to fully live. We will not be limited by our bodies. We will not be too short or too tall. We will not be too skinny or too fat. We will not have weak eyesight or weak knees. We will have the perfect amount of strength. The perfect amount of stamina. We will receive a new body that is ideally suited to serve exactly as God desires us to serve.

Consider the idea of living abundantly and living eternal together. We will never have needs – not in 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, not ever.

Consider the words in this section – raised imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power, made for heaven. The new body is in contrast to our current bodies which are made from dust (v. 49) and will therefore die (v. 42), are dishonorable (v. 43), and weak (v. 43). Yes, the abundant life that God offers us is available now (John 10.10), but not necessarily as we think of abundance. But the fullness of what God has for us will be experienced by those who are called His children (1 John 3.2).

A New Body Allows Us to Live Truly (1 Corinthians 15.50-58)

I hinted at this in the previous point. But what do I mean by truly living? Honestly, I don’t know. We can’t fully know on this side of eternity. We cannot fathom what awaits, but our present bodies will not be able to withstand the joy.

Some people have a false understanding of heaven. We will not be floating around on clouds. Certainly, we will sing praises to our King (Revelation 5, 7, 19). But heaven will not be an everlasting worship service or time of preaching. We will serve. In the Parable of the Talents, the master says to the two faithful servants, “You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25.21, 23). That is, those who serve well will be given more responsibility to serve in the presence of the Master.

But the toil will not be burdensome because The Curse will have been lifted. It is as NT Wright says, we will have “Life after life after death.” That is the life I look forward to having. Not just life after death, but truly living in the life that comes after death.

That is the fullness of what Paul means when he quotes from the prophet Hosea, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15.54-55; cf. Hosea 13.14).

We must seek to live our lives as faithfully as we can in this life. But life on the other side of eternity will be a life that we cannot fathom…but it will be a life that will allow us to truly live.

Are you ready?

Well, don’t rush it. But be ready! And be expectant!


Perhaps no phrase better captures the idea of what true life is meant to be than Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11.25).

Jesus did not just say He would be resurrected and offer life – He said, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” That claim is probably the second most bold claim ever made by anyone. And it is second only to another claim by Jesus – that He was God (just a few verses earlier in John 10.30).

Jesus’ claim about being the epitome of life is followed by a statement about those who believe will live, even though they die (John 11.26). And then He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11.26).

He is asking us the same question today. The reality is that Jesus has made promises that will be fulfilled one day and one of those promises is our resurrection and our new bodies. It will happen. But He gives us the choice of whether to believe or not. I do not understand the fullness of that statement. I can barely begin to understand any portion of it:





But I believe it. Of course, I have a good grasp of of the word AND, but that’s it. The rest is beyond me. But I believe it. And I want to experience the fullness of whatever Jesus meant by that statement.

Having a resurrected body in the presence of Jesus is my hope. (Biblically, hope is not a wish, it is a certainty that is not yet an experienced reality.)

And for those who believe, Paul wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we who believe are to be pitied above all else – because our Hope would lead to nothing, if His resurrection were not true. But as I have said before, if nothing exists beyond this life, why do we do anything? Why should we do anything? Why do we have fear over a virus? Or the economy? Or whatever? But if something, or Someone, does exist, then our primary concern should be about whether or not we are ready to meet Him!

It goes back to last week’s statement about our need for forgiveness. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Yes, we will die, but it is then that you and I can fully understand what it means to live, in the new body, that God has prepared for each of us.

“Forgiveness” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last week I talked about the church – the first reference in the Apostles’ Creed that was not directly about God. Yes, Mary and Pontius Pilate were mentioned, but they were mentioned in their relationship to the Son – they were not the direct focus.

Last week, the focus did turn to a portion of mankind – the church. On a day when we celebrate the Resurrection (the WHAT), it was good to see a part of the WHY. Without the resurrection, Jesus could not have fulfilled His promise, but because He rose again, His statement, “I will build my church” is still being fulfilled today (Matthew 16.18).

But this week, the Creed moves fully to the place of man – and the description is not favorable. We are sinners. That is, we fail to keep the commands of God. God never fails to keep His promises to us, but apart from the Holy Spirit living in and through us (click here to read post of April 8), we can do nothing good (Romans 3.10).

It is because of this sin that Jesus had to die. It is because of this sin that we are condemned (John 3.17-18, see the post on April 1). We desire forgiveness. We expect forgiveness. We need forgiveness. God grants forgiveness. That is the message for us today.

We Desire Forgiveness (Matthew 6.12, 14)

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). This phrase comes from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray – commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray these words (not just say them), we do so showing our desire to be forgiven. And God wants to forgive us. He wants it so much that He made the way for us to be forgiven – the sacrifice of Jesus.

But the forgiveness we desire in that prayer comes with a cost. Notice the words, forgive us as we forgive. That is, we are only asking God to forgive us if we forgive others. Now, here is the most challenging part. The words “us,” “our” (twice), and “we” are personal plural pronouns. Why is this important? Because if we pray that prayer together and you forgive someone, but I don’t, then well, WE may not be forgiven. Ouch.

But we do desire forgiveness. And so, we ask. And God desires to forgive us. Two verses later, Jesus says that if you (plural) forgive others, then God will forgive you. That is God will focus us. He wants to forgive us; but He wants us to be forgiving as well.

But the point is that we pray for forgiveness because we desire it. And I will share why in just a few more minutes.

We Expect Forgiveness (Matthew 18.21-35)

This passage has a similar point to the previous one – we want to be forgiven, so we should forgive. But these verses contain a parable that provide a little clarity.

The servant in this parable thinks he is better than others. This first servant does desire forgiveness. He falls on his knees pleading for mercy (Matthew 18.26). But when he receives it from the king, he does not extend it to others. Why? Because he thinks himself better than others. The people who owed the servant money pleased in the same way (desiring forgiveness), but he did not grant it. The debts that the first servant owed the king far outweighed what his fellow servants owed him, but that did not matter to him. Why? He thought he was better than them.

This parable is similar to Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about removing the log from our eye to see clearly enough to help another person by removing the speck from their eye. But when we think we are worthy of forgiveness and others are not, we have a serious problem. This man desired forgiveness, but his attitude after receiving it showed he did not appreciate it so much as he expected it. And if we expect forgiveness, we are much less likely to extend it to others.

Ultimately, it comes down to thinking that what we do is as bad as what others do. Ultimately, when we take that attitude, we will forget our desire for forgiveness because we will lose our understanding that we need forgiveness.

We Need Forgiveness (Romans 5.12-21)

It is sin that brought death, and that death came through one man. 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The Bible is clear that we sin.

Psalm 143.2: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”

Romans 3.10: “None is righteous, no not one.:”

Romans 3.23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Some will say that mankind is basically good. That teaching is nothing new, but it certainly contradicts the Bible. David shows that our sin is not just from the lives we lead; rather, it is a part of our being from before our births.

Psalm 51.5: “Behold I was brought forth iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

The sin of which David speaks is not his mother’s sin, it is his.

So, these verses and other show our propensity towards sin. It is a part of our nature. And the sin we have leads to death. The first part of Romans 6.23 makes this clear. So does Romans 5. Read Romans 5.12-21. Adam’s sin is the cause of all sin. And because of his sin, Adam eventually died. Furthermore, we sin because of Adam’s sin, and statistics show us that we will die too.

But, and this but is important, the death of the body is one thing; the death of a soul is another.

We die because of Adam, but if we have faith in Jesus, we will live because of Him. That is what Paul is trying to communicate to the Romans. It is what he communicated to the Corinthians in the verse I mentioned above. Adam sin leads us to death; the gift we receive through Jesus leads to life, if only we choose to receive that gift.

Think of it this way. When Adam sinned, God removed mankind from the Garden. When Christ died, Jesus provided a way back in at the proper time.

God Grants Forgiveness (Ephesians 2.4-5)

Ephesians 2.4 is one of the great “But God” verses. I will share another one in a moment. In Ephesians 1, Paul has stressed the importance of the people knowing the truth of God and that their salvation rests in Him. Then, as he begins the next section, he turns to the idea that they were dead in their transgressions, following the world, and were sons (and daughters) of disobedience. They deserved wrath (Ephesians 2.3). But God. God made a way – even though He did not have to do so. He made a way through the man we know as Jesus.

Romans 5.8 says something very similar – “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Here is the most important point I can make today. We desire forgiveness. We even expect forgiveness. We desperately need forgiveness. But if God did not grant us what we desire, expect, and need, then it would not matter. We would be doomed. And we should be doomed.

But God. God grants forgiveness.

And He does so even before we knew we needed it. He did so even if we do not desire it now. He made it possible because of His love. And all we must do is confess. As John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

People often cry out for fairness. But God does not offer fairness. He offers grace. Fair would be allowing us to die in our sin. Grace says we can live – eternally with Him. Fair would mean that because of what God has done, we stop pretending to be the rulers of our own lives (which requires us to ask for forgiveness again and again). Grace says, “I wish you wouldn’t, but I love you.”

God made a way for us knowing we could not make a way for ourselves. What God allowed His Son to endure was not fair, but it was necessary for His purposes.

And all we have to do is respond.


So, yes, as the Apostles’ Creed says, I believe “…in the forgiveness of sins.” And I do. I believe it not because I desire it, although I do. I believe it not because I expect it, although I do. I believe it not because I need it, although I desperately do. No, I believe it because the Bible tells me God offers it.

But I wonder if we feel the weight of our sin. In Psalm 51, David said he could not escape the torment of his sin (v. 3). Do I constantly sense the heaviness of my sin?

The reality is that we probably don’t feel the weight of our sin because we don’t like to talk about sin. But if we are not willing to talk about our sin, then we will likely not confront our sin. And if we are not willing to confront our sin, then we have no need of Jesus. Again, if we do not realize the gravity of our sin, then effectively we have NO NEED FOR JESUS.

But again, the Bible says differently. Let me close by reading just a few more verses.

Romans 6.23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5.21: “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Timothy 1.15a: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners,…”

And one final one, which I mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Let us choose to overcome death, by choosing forgiveness in the One who died for us.

“The Church” by Pastor Andy Braams

We are moving toward the end of our series on the Apostles’ Creed. As we consider all of the changes in our world over the past few months, it is good to know that God is still in control. And the Creed provides a summary of the timeless truths found in the Bible.

Up to this point, the Creed has been about God. Now the attention turns to the notion of God’s people. The next phrase in the Creed is a stated belief in “the holy catholic church and the communion of saints.”

Now, you may be questioning why I would be preaching about this topic on Resurrection Sunday. That is a fair question. But my argument is that the Resurrection was the beginning of something new – not only life after death, but life while living through the promise of Jesus. One of those promises is the idea of the church.

So, my point today is not that the resurrection does not matter. Indeed, it matters greatly. And I wrote about that here. And the ascension matters as well as I wrote about here. But the resurrection is more than an item in history. We also need to understand why the resurrection happened.

First, and foremost, the resurrection defeated death. Jesus rose again, and now we have the opportunity to do so as well.

But, Jesus made a promise to build the church, and that did not happen before He died. So, either Jesus was unable to do what He said, or He would fulfill the promise in some unexpected way. That unexpected way was by being raised from the dead.

So, let’s look at the promise and the fulfillment through the lens of the resurrection.

The Promise (Matthew 16.18)

Matthew 16.13-20 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I have taught on the passage over many different sermons at various times. (A series of links from a sermon series Andy preached on this passage is at the end of this post.) It was also the foundation for my dissertation. The passage is critical to our understanding of the founding of the church. In fact, this passage contains one of only three uses of the word church in all four gospels combined (the other two uses are in Matthew 18.17).

In Matthew 16.18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” This promise is made in response to Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God. That is a substantial promise. Of course, the disciples had no real idea what He meant in that moment, but Jesus did, and that should be enough.

The problem is that this promise was made near the end of Jesus ministry. After this story, Jesus moves south towards Jerusalem where, within a matter of just a few months, He would be killed.

Now, I know we are all guilty of making promises that we cannot keep. I am certain many of us had plans and made promises that have been pre-empted by COVID-19. But if Jesus is God, and He is, then He not only should be able to keep His promises, He should keep them.

But if Jesus is dead, He cannot keep it.

The Solution (John 20.1-10)

Immediately after Peter made the Great Confession, Jesus began to talk about His suffering and death. Then, He mentioned His resurrection. A few of the disciples had witnessed Jesus bringing back people from the dead, and the rest of them, plus many others would soon witness Lazarus coming out of the tomb. But the concept of people returning from the dead was not understood. And particularly for a person to say that He would do it Himself must have been considered foolishness. But that is what Jesus said (see John 2.19). More importantly, that is what Jesus did.

READ John 20.1-10.

In this story, we have not one, but three witnesses mentioned. If we add in the other gospels, we know that a few women went to the tomb that morning (Luke mentions 3 by name and then says “others” were involved as well, see Luke 24.10). So, multiple people saw the empty tomb. The more witnesses, the more credible the story. And the fact that the Bible says that women were the ones to break the news is significant because of their place in society in that day. The story would be much more believable if a man had said it. But since the Bible tells us that it was women, it creates an extra measure of truth because no one would have dared considered a woman’s word in place of man’s unless what she said was true.

The Blueprints (Matthew 28.18-20)

After the resurrection, Jesus eventually gathered His tribe on the side of a mountain one more time to give them instructions. Those instructions were the blueprints for His earlier promise. The instruction was simply two words, “Make disciples” (Matthew 28.19). We do this my going, by baptizing, and by teaching others to observe what He taught. But that is the command. He commissioned us with His authority (v 18). He gave us the blueprints. And now we join Him in laboring to build His Church.

Rest assured, Jesus is the architect and the true builder. But we are co-laborers. Furthermore, we are the materials. Jesus is placing each of us right where He wants us…right where He needs us. Like a master builder placing brick after brick or fastening one joist to another, Jesus is building what He wants, how He wants.

And right now, it appears Jesus is doing some rearranging. Of course, that is our perspective. As Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection, most do so from their homes, perhaps gathering with just a few other people. Instead of gathering in a building that man has built, we watch and listen online this week and wonder what the future of the church that Jesus is building will look like.

But again, Jesus was not caught off guard. Jesus is still building. And He will continue to build His Church, until He returns. While gathering together as a church can be done in many different ways to do many different things each week, we, the Church at large, often do things that would make little sense to Jesus. We often do things that the early church would have done. And we don’t know things like we should, including following the basics of the blueprints – love God, love others, love one another, and make disciples.

Are we guilty of treating His Church like it is our church? Are we guilty of assuming that Jesus is not active in building His Church today? Do we know that Jesus is risen, but live our lives and treat His Bride as if He is still dead?

Rest assured. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty. The buildings may be empty this week, but the Church is still alive because Jesus is alive. And His last promise for the Church was as great as His first promise was about the Church – He will be with us always.


Because He is alive.

Why did Jesus raise from the dead?

To show sin and death were defeated? Yes. But also to build His Church!

And the promise of the Church, the truth of the resurrection, and the blueprints we are to use have been passed down for centuries. Now, it is our turn to guard that truth and to pass it on to others, so they can pass it on as well (2 Timothy 1.14, 2.2).

So, yes, I believe in the holy catholic church and the communion of saints, the latest phrase in our look at the Apostles’ Creed. By the way, catholic means whole – as in the whole church, not the belief system/denomination known as Catholicism. And, even though we cannot be in physical communion with one another today, a time is coming when we will gather together again. Why? Because that is what church really is – a gathering of people, specifically those who are called out by God and for God in order that we may serve Him. And that serving includes, making disciples so He can continue to build His Church.


On that Sunday morning, nearly 2000 years ago, the words were spoken that still ring true today, “He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16.6).

Jesus is still not in that, or any tomb. Instead, He is still active and is building His Church. If you are a follower of Jesus, then that means you are a part of what is being built. If you do not yet know Jesus (not know about, truly know), then He wants you to be a part of what He is building as well.

Peter confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus gave him a new identity. When we confess Jesus as our Savior, He gives us a new identity as well. And a part of that identity is to be a part of the Church, which therefore must include the local church.

So, what are you doing now?

Being a part of what God is building does not mean that we wait until we die. No, eternal life begins the moment you receive the gift of Jesus – the salvation He purchased on the cross, the resurrection that proved that salvation is real, and the opportunity to live with Him for eternity at His invitation.

But, what do we do while we are living? That is, if you are reading this, then you are not dead, so the resurrection cannot just be about life after death…it has to mean something for this life too. And that something is about each of us being a part of the Church He is building.

One thing I know, one day you and I will be asked a question very similar to the one Jesus asked His disciples. That question, “Who do you say that I am?”

The time to answer is now. Do you know what your answer will be?

While Andy has preached other messages on this passage, the following links are posts (from his sermon notes) from a series on Matthew 16.13-19 preached in January-March 2016.









“Our Helper” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of our current sermon series in 2019, none of us knew of COVID-19. Indeed, the virus, for all we know, did not exist yet. It certainly was not infecting humans. My intent was to share stories about issues which are affecting us in new and different ways and then point to the one constant in the midst of all that change – Jesus. Thus, the title of the series is Constant in a World of Change. I could have never imagined how much change we would see in 2020.

And, of course, the virus is only one part of that change. The sexual revolution marches on and does so without as much attention right now because the focus is elsewhere. But other changes are happening and will now happen in ways that were inconceivable just a few week ago. Why? Because of an invisible virus called COVID-19.

Of course, the virus is not really invisible, but it does take a microscope to see it. However, the invisible force of the virus is not the most powerful, yet unseen force right now. No, that title belongs to the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is still present. He is still active. And He is still providing hope for all who know Him. We talked a little about the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus a couple of months ago. Today, I will discuss His ongoing role for us.


The Holy Spirit Comforts Us (John 14.16)

When Jesus knew He was leaving the earth, He knew His followers would need comfort. The ESV uses the term Helper. But another word could be Counselor (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7).

Counselors do not bring comfort; they help us find comfort. Their words can help us understand our troubles, they can provide possible solutions, and they can guide us along a path. But the counselor himself or herself does not bring comfort. Our response to a counselor is what brings comfort.

The same is true for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us find comfort which is truly found in peace – a peace offered by God the Father, promised by the Son, and fulfilled by the Spirit. Many people say they believe in Jesus but have no peace. That is, they cannot find comfort. If we are truly born again, and do have the Spirit within them, the Spirit (or Counselor as Jesus calls Him) gives us the ability to find peace, but we must choose to receive the help and guidance.

In the context of John, Jesus was speaking not only of the lasting comfort that the Spirit would provide, he meant the comfort His disciples would need soon. Jesus was about to depart and when He did, the Counselor would come (John 16.7). But Jesus HAD to depart for the Counselor to come. Jesus knew His disciples (i.e. His friends) would be devastated at His leaving. But He promised them a Counselor (a Comforter) who would comfort them, if only they would allow it.

The Holy Spirit Lives in Us (John 14.16-17)

Jesus first introduces this idea of a Helper (Counselor) in John 14. He says that His disciples already know this Helper and He knows them. Specifically, in verse 17, Jesus says that “He dwells with you, and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit was upon Jesus. We see this in a literal sense in Matthew 3 when the Spirit descends as a dove after Jesus is baptized. But it is through the Spirit that Jesus does what He does. And so, the disciples having seen and known Jesus already know the Holy Spirit, even if they cannot see Him.

But Jesus says it is more than knowing. The Spirit will be within them. Therefore, He will be with them all the time, whereas Jesus was not – at least not with all of them all of the time. But the Spirit would be.

And it is because of the Spirit that we can abide with Jesus. John 15.1-7 talk about the need to abide with Jesus. In a physical sense, that may have been possible for the disciples, but it is not for us. But Jesus did not mean physically. He meant a spiritual intimacy. And that intimacy with Jesus, that is, with God, is possible because of the Holy Spirit. We can abide with God even though we are not physically with God because the Spirit is within us just as it would be for His first disciples, if we truly believe in God.

But the Spirit is within us for more than intimacy. He is there for three more reasons which I will cover quickly.

The Holy Spirit Teaches Us (John 14.26)

We need to spend time with God to be taught. God wants to teach us and does so through His Spirit. During our current situation, it is not hard to imagine a teacher showing up to teach but not having any students. That could often be true of God. God has much to teach us, but if we are unable or unwilling to receive His teaching then we are poor students. Now, we must be willing, but the Spirit makes us able. And the ability He gives us is to understand the truth. Not my truth or your truth, but His truth which is THE TRUTH.

John 14.26 says that the Spirit was to teach the disciples what they needed to know, including reminding them of what Jesus taught. That is, in part, how we have the gospels, and how and why the Bible was written. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 and 2 Peter 1.21 both talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in writing the Scripture and the 2 Timothy verses share how Scripture can help us.

Much more can be said, and should be, but I want to spend just a minute talking about the difference between guilt and shame. Most of us know when we have done something wrong. If we are Christians, we might be struck with guilt. That is the Holy Spirit. We feel guilty, or a better word is convicted because we have violated what God desires for us and for others. But shame is not from God. Shame is feeling unworthy. Shame is what others make you feel. The devil wants us to feel shame – to feel unworthy, to feel unloved, especially by God. Guilt on the other hand is the realization we have done something wrong, and with the teaching of the Spirit, we can respond and have a chance to grow. Shame will not bring growth. Guilt can.

The Holy Spirit Testifies to Us and Through Us (John 15.26-27)

In John 15, Jesus speaks of abiding, but then He says that they disciples need to know more about Him. They need to further realize the truth of who Jesus is. That is a part of the teaching that the Spirit will do. He will “bear witness” about Jesus. He will make it clear who Jesus is. He will make it clear what Jesus did. And then the Spirit will use us to tell others.

Honestly, this is one of the key understandings of the Holy Spirit. If we do not desire to tell others about Jesus, then we may not have the Spirit within us. Now, let me be clear. I am not attempting to shame you if you do not share. I am not saying that “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I am certainly not saying that God does not love you if you do not share. If you hear that voice, it is not mine, and it certainly is not God’s. It is of the devil as I said in my last point.

But you may feel convicted. And as I just stated in the previous point, that is good. That means the Holy Spirit is pushing you, teaching you, to want to do that. If we have the greatest gift God could give (salvation through Jesus Christ), then we should want to share. That is what Jesus said to His disciples on that last night He was with the before He was crucified. And it is what He says to us – not only through the words of the Bible, but through the testimony of the Spirit.

The reality is that we can all share more than we do. We can all testify more than we do. So, if you feel guilty about not testifying, thank God for that guilt. But then, do something about it. Testify.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us

And we can testify not only because Jesus said that the Spirit will testify through us, but because He empowers us. But He not only empowers us to understand God’s teachings, He also empowers to live our life free from sin. We talked about this topic a little this past Wednesday night in our Bible study.

Romans 8.2-17 talks about the freedom we have in Jesus because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (If you want more on that topic, I invite you to watch the video from last Wednesday night’s Bible study on the church’s YouTube channel. Go to Youtube.com and type in Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri – Missouri is important because we are not the only Fairfax, think Fairfax, VA).

A part of the breaking free from that bondage is found in Galatians 5. The chapter begins with the declaration that Christ set us free so we could truly be free.  Beginning in verse 16, Paul wrote about the distinction between those who live according the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. The desires are very different. And the desires of the Spirit are to honor and glorify God. Specifically, we do that by showing fruit in our lives. And the fruit that comes from the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).

This fruit was so evident in the life of Jesus, and it is meant to be evident in our life as well. We cannot grow that fruit ourselves. It is the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit comes when we allow Him to plant Himself into us and allow Him to cultivate us to allow it to grow. It is then that the fruit becomes evident. It is then that the fruit becomes mature. And it is mature fruit that helps not only us, but others.


So, the Holy Spirit live in us to comfort us, to teach us, to testify to us, to testify through us, and to empower us. But only if we believe – that is, if we are born again.

The Creed says, I believe in the Holy Spirit. But are these just words to you, or are they a way of life?

If they are simply words, you will live your life the way you always have which is exactly the way that you desire to live. Sure, you may feel ashamed of yourself and your lifestyle, but you will not change because you do not have the power to change yourself.

But if those words are a way of life, then you will be empowered to change. Sometimes the change will be slow. At other times, it may be so fast you will feel your head spinning. You will still make mistakes, and thus you will still feel convicted, but you will use that conviction as an opportunity to grow. Your fruit will grow. Your relationship with Jesus will grow. And that is all possible (and only possible) because of the Holy Spirit.

“The Judge” by Pastor Andy Braams

Matthew 25.31-34

People are worried about the world ending…what happens when the world ends.

If there is no God, then nothing, so why should we care about what is happening now, or ever. That is, if nothing awaits us beyond this life, then we need not worry about having purpose and therefore nothing should matter to us now – people are sick, people are dying, maybe it could be us, who cares?

But we do care. Why?

Well, before I answer that, let me remind us that this series is about the Apostles’ Creed. But we are at a transition point this week. The Creed has been primarily about the past until this point. But today’s phrase, “whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead,” points to the future. Jesus will come.

And when He comes again, it will not be as a servant, it will be as Lord. He will be King. And thus, He will judge.

The Real Judge

We all have a sense that judgment is right. And therefore, we all judge. We talk about fairness and equity and rights. All of these terms and more imply judgment. And thus, we recognize judgment as necessary, but we do not want to be judged ourselves. Ultimately, this is the answer to the question above. We care because something inside us seeks justice. The problem is that justice is not the same as fairness and what we want is fairness. But who determines fairness? If it is me, then sometimes you will not like what I think is fair. If you are the one determining, then, at times, I will not like what you think is fair. Therefore, for judgment to be real it must have come from a higher authority than humanity. For me, that authority is the one true God.

Now, many people believe that God will be the judge. But what most people do not consider is which Person will be the judge. Is the Judge God the Father, God the Son, or God the Spirit. I think most people would assume that the judge is the Father. But we do not have to assume. And we do not have to guess. The Bible is clear: the judge is Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10). But beyond the words of Paul, we can know straight from the mouth of Jesus. John recorded Jesus’ saying, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,…” (5:22).

So, Jesus will judge. And He is the Judge. But what kind of judge will He be?

The Righteous Judge

Paul calls the Lord, the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4.8). He wrote these words from a prison in Rome while awaiting his execution, which was imminent, although probably months away. He was comparing the judgment of Christ (who place a crown of righteousness on Paul’s head – v. 8), with the judgment of Nero who was to remove Paul’s head from his body.

Now, when we talk about judgment, we must be clear about what is meant. We are called to discern – that is, use judgment. In fact, the verse that many will use about us not judging others (Matthew 7.1) is in a passage that actually goes on to say that we are to help others (which requires judgment that they need help), but to do so after making sure we are right with God. (Read Matthew 7.1-5. Then read verse 6 which goes further into the need to “judge” the situation.)

But in our focus today we are talking about eternal judgment. We are not talking about helping others; the intent here is about condemnation And only Jesus can do that.

Any judicial system has issues. We are all prone to judge others based upon a lot of factors that are irrelevant such as theological understandings, skin color, political affiliation, nationality, or even geographic location within a country, state, or even city/town, etc.

But the judgment of Jesus will be based upon one thing – belief. And, in fact, Jesus will not have to condemn anyone on the day of judgment (see Rev 20) because as Jesus said just after one of the most oft-quoted verses in the Bible,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of he only Son of God” (John 3.17-18).

So, the righteous Judge is not condemning people. He is just pronouncing the judgment that they have already chosen for themselves.

The Faithful and True Judge

In Revelation 19.11-19, Jesus is also referred to as Faithful and True. That faithfulness is to Himself as God. That truth is to His purposes as God. The reality is that we all want to think of ourselves as faithful to ourselves and true to our purposes. But we are not. We can see this in so many areas of our lives. Maybe it is treating one child differently than another. Maybe it is reacting differently to different people when they do the same thing. May it is when we give up on a New Year’s (or any other) Resolution. Etc.

But Jesus has never wavered. Jesus is always faithful. To Himself. And thus, to us. We can know exactly what He expects of us. We can also know His love for us never wavers. Ever. For He is faithful and He is true. And He wants us to be as well.

What is interesting is that those who are found faithful (not perfect, but faithful), will also sit as judges. In Revelation 2.26-27, Jesus says that the “one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” will have authority. We will judge with Him, but under His authority. Furthermore, Paul wrote that the saints will judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6.3). That is, we do not become angels when we die – angels were created before mankind); instead, we will judge them.

And that leads us to the last point. A judgment is coming.

The Coming Judgment

For the sake of time, I will not read all of Matthew 24.32-42 and Matthew 25.31-34; 41. But let me summarize each.

At the end of Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of the fig tree. The fig tree is supposed to produce figs in season. It did not, so Jesus cursed it and it died. Jesus then talked about a future time when some will be ready and some will not, because the exact time of the coming judgment is not known. He does not even know (Matthew 24.36). So, just like the fig tree, we need to produce fruit in season – before it is too late. And this is our season.

At the end of Matthew 25, Jesus describes the final judgment as a separating of the sheep from the goats. In this passage, the idea is not just having belief, but what we do with that belief. Jesus gives scenarios such as being hungry, thirsty, and being a stranger and being welcomed by some, and rejected by others. While anyone can provide care for others, Jesus is saying that those who believe should show the necessary compassion to provide that care. That is what distinguished true belief from merely stating a knowledge of something, or in Jesus’ case, Someone.

Ultimately, both of these passages talk about what we will do because of what we know. It is belief that is important, but it is our fruit that shows belief. The goal of the servant is to first hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21, 23) so that we can hear the rest, “enter into the joy of your master.” But as I say often, to hear “Well done” we first have to do.


The Bible is clear that doing is not what grants you salvation, but what we do should be the result of what we believe (Ephesians 2.8-10). And we need to serve our King, but it is He, our King, the Lord, who will judge. Jesus is that King. And Jesus will return. And when He does, He will come in judgment.

Jesus is the ultimate judge. He Himself was judged by man, but when He returns He will judge mankind.

I do not know when He will return, but some people are concerned that the time we are living in right now may be the end. Maybe it is. Again, I do not know. But whether this is the end of not, Jesus will come again one day. If He comes today, are you ready? If He comes tomorrow, or next week, or next year, will you be ready?

If you are not sure, I encourage you to find a friend who knows Jesus, who loves Jesus, and wants you to know and love Him as well. Or, perhaps it would be easier for you to contact our church. You can email us at fairfaxmobaptistchurch.org or send us a message on FB. If you leave a comment in Facebook or YouTube, the comment could be overlooked depending on the number of comments received or when you leave the comment, so directly contacting us is a better option. If you do, someone will reply as soon as possible in order to set up a time to talk.

“The Significance of the Ascension” by Pastor Andy Braams

Very few people remember the beginnings of WW2. Some may remember the end, but to even be alive at the beginning, which happened when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, you would have to be nearly 81. So, to be able to remember that day would add a few years and limits the number of people considerably. And the war that started over there, would be brought to our shores just over two years later on December 7, 1941.

Many are stating that WW2 is the event that most closely identifies with our current pandemic known as COVID-19. While the circumstances of that war were far different, we can find similarities. First, like the beginning of that war, this virus started over there. Sure, we heard about some people in another nation being affected by a virus, but we have heard similar stories before, and yet we have barely been affected.

But the biggest parallel is the disruption that has come to the lives of people around the world. For Americans, we had two years before WW2 became a national concern. With COVID-19, we had two months, and really, to reach the level it has, we have had about 3 months.

But with WW2, most of the war was fought over there. Sure, people had concerns that led to the use of internment camps. But most of the worry was about those fighting over there. Not this time. This time, the concern is right before us. And it will be for some time.

What faces us is more than concern; it is fear. However, as I said last week, “Fear is real, but it need not rule.”

Last week, I took a break from our current series to discuss a Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That response centered on acknowledging any fear and trusting God as David did in Psalm 56. Then, having acknowledged the fear, we are to love others, and help them through their fears. I believe more can be added, but at a minimum, those two ideas represent how a Christian can respond.

But the question is WHY can a Christian respond that way? Well, that is the message for this week. And to see the answer, we will look to Jesus. But we will look at an aspect of Jesus’ life that is often overlooked.

However, before I do that, I realize that many who may watch this message will not have the full context. So, I want to take a few moments to share about the series I am doing, and how it fits far better than I could have imagined.

The current series is entitled, Constant in a World of Change. The series is based upon the Bible but is designed around the phrases found in the Apostles’ Creed. Each of the phrases found in the creed is a truth found in the Bible. So, the point of the series was to show the constancy of God in the midst of all of the changes around us. And the reality is that our world is changing fast – and it still is, but most all of the attention now is on the changes brought by the novel (or new) coronavirus.

That is the purpose behind the series. Now, let’s move into this phrase:
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

We can find the truth of this statement in one verse, which will be my focus today.

Ephesians 1.20 says, “that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

That verse has a lot of He, Him, and His in it, so let me restate the verse by backing up and picking up the context:
“that God (the Father) worked in Christ when God (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him (Jesus) and His (God, the Father) in the heavenly places.”

In other words, the Him(s) are Jesus, and the He and His are God, the Father.

So, why does this verse matter. Why would I choose to preach on this during the midst of the challenges of COVID-19? Stay with me for a few minutes and you will see. Let me give you four quick points.

The Ascension Proves Christ’s Work On Earth Is Finished

It is one thing to say, “It is finished.” (John 19.30)

It is another for that statement to be true.
God raised Jesus from the dead. Was it to do more work? Nope!
God raised Jesus from the earth. Because the work Jesus did on earth was done.

Jesus would not have ascended if the Father did not think Jesus’ job on earth was done.

The Ascension Places Jesus in the Position of Authority

Because Jesus work on earth was done, God had a new assignment for Him.
Read Ephesians 1.20-23. (This passage is similar to what is written in Philippians 2.9-11 and Colossians 1.18-20).

What we can know is that Jesus has supreme authority. He is the supreme authority. We will see more of that next week when we look at Jesus as the Judge.

The Ascension Provides the Spirit His Opportunity to Work

Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit when He left. It is the Spirit who guides us in this day. It is the Spirit who equips us.

Jesus said it is to our advantage that He leave (John 16.7)

As Al Mohler writes about this truth, “Without his ascension the Spirit could not come; and, in some mysterious, spectacular way, the indwelling of the Spirit eclipses the physical presence of Jesus Christ.” (1)

So, what is Jesus doing right now? He is preparing a place for us. Many have focused on the rooms, asking questions like what will they be like? Who cares? The purpose is not where we stay, but with Whom we will stay. (John 14.3)

And that leads us to the fourth point.

The Ascension Presents God’s People a Permanent Home

Mark 16.19 says that Jesus was taken up into heaven. Heaven is a real place. Ephesians 2.4-6 says that we will be seated with Him. Revelation 3.21 says the same thing for those who overcome this world. Again, as I mentioned above, Jesus is preparing a place for us now. And the world, with all of its beauty and creativity was created in six days. Imagine what Jesus is preparing having had nearly 2000 years to do it.


As I prepare to close, you may recall that I mentioned that this message fits perfectly within the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Let me explain how.

If Jesus died, but did not rise from the dead, how could we know that His death meant what He said it did.

If Jesus rose from the dead, but had not ascend to heaven, how could we know He did not die again.

In other words, without the ascension, could we really have hope? But if Jesus did die (and He did), and rose from the dead (and He did), and ascended to heaven (and He did), then we can know that no matter what may happen to us on this earth, we can have hope for today, for tomorrow, and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

The word corona comes from a Latin word that means wreath or crown. A crown is worn by a ruler, and right now, the coronavirus seems to rule the world today, but Jesus will rule for eternity. Rest assured, God is in control. Jesus is seated which means His job is done, and when the time is right, He will return and prove His worth as the One worthy of all crowns, for as the Bible says, He will be crowned the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

That is a hope worth having. That is the hope we need.

(1) Albert Mohler, The Apostle’s Creed, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, 108.

“Abandoned?” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last September, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died. Now, Dr. Klopfer would not be known to most people and would have simply passed from this life without incident except for a shocking discovery. After the doctors death, relatives found 71 boxes in his garage. Those boxes contained 2,246 aborted fetuses. In the trunk of one of his cars, they found another 165 fetuses. All totaled, this man had saved the fetuses of 2,411 babies aborted between the years of 2000-2003. (1)

Frankly, many questions should be asked, but most can never be answered now that Dr. Klopfer is dead. Why did this many keep these aborted babies? Why did he keep them for 16-19 years? But the biggest question is how could all of these lives be simply abandoned?

Thankfully, an arrangement was made to restore the dignity of these humans by providing them a proper burial a couple of weeks ago – even if the burial was premature for most of them had they been allowed to be born, and much delayed given what happened to them.

Most people who hear of this situation are appalled – and rightfully so. But is the appalling nature of this situation the act of abortion, the act of keeping these children in boxes, or the number of babies involved?

The abortion debate is real. And it is intense. And a lot of people who have been impacted by abortion are deeply wounded. This message is not about opening that wound. This message is not about abortion. But it is about abandonment. And those babies were abandoned. But the issue is that you and I abandon people each and every day – perhaps not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense – perhaps even the individuals impacted by abortions. And although we may never know why Dr. Klopfer did what he did, one day you and I will have to give an account of our actions to our Lord.

See, all of humanity should be in a state of abandonment. That may be true of our lives, but it should certainly be true after we die. But God. God made a way through Jesus, who Himself “was not abandoned to Hades” (Acts 2.31), but loosed “the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him (Jesus) to be held by it” (Acts 2.24).

Read Acts 2.23-24. God had a plan. Jesus executed that plan. And because of that execution, we are not abandoned, if only we believe.

This truth about what God has done through Jesus, and what Jesus has done for us, and what the Spirit desires to do within us is why we are studying the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we come to the part of the Creed that says, “He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.”

However, we should know that God raised Jesus so that He could raise us too. That is, God raised Jesus back to life, so that we could not only live with Him forever, but that we could truly live.

So, if Jesus rose in order for us to live, what are we doing with the life He has given?

Jesus Descended into Hades

Today, portion of the Creed begins with one of the most challenging truths mentioned in the Bible. But we must consider two aspects to this truth. First, we must examine the wording carefully to make sure the Creed matches the Bible. Second, we must be careful not to make our attempts at understanding the passage say more than what the Bible really says. (Many have suggested this phrase should be left out of the Creed, but it is there, and we must deal with it as best we can.)

First, the challenging passage is found in 1 Peter 3. Specifically, verse 19 says, then Jesus “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” Now, we do not need to wonder what He preached. Like His time on earth, He preached of the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed Himself Messiah and the fulfillment of the prophecies. But the real question arises as to where He preached.

Most every reputable translation uses the term or concept of those in prison. And, indeed, that is the term in the Greek. It is the same term used of John being in prison in Mark 6, for instance. But the Creed says hell.

Now, hell is a real place that will be the eternal home for the devil, the demons, and all of those who reject Christ. But it is not the word used in 1 Peter 3, which is the source of this statement in the Apostles’ Creed. So, did Jesus go to hell to do this preaching? No.

He went to Hades. Hell and Hades are two places that are often used synonymously. But they are two different places. Hades is the place of the dead, much like the Jewish concept of Sheol in the OT. The concept of Hades actually has three levels. It has a level of punishment (like hell) for those who are evil. It has a middle place where most people will be (those who are not too good and not too evil). And it has a place of blessing for those who are good and heroic.

We see this idea of Hades in Luke 16, when the rich man was dead and looking up from the place of torment in Hades (v. 23) saw the poor man, a man named Lazarus (with no evidence that it was the Lazarus who was brought back from the dead in John 11) in Abraham’s bosom (the place of blessing in Hades). Lest we think this is just some human thought, realize this story is from the mouth of Jesus!

From the cross, Jesus said to one of the thieves, today you will be with me “in Paradise.” That man went to the place in Hades known as Elysium (or the Elysian Fields), and Jesus would be there to proclaim the message of God to all who would listen.

Again, this is as much as we can say. Did Jesus go to the other levels of Hades? Perhaps, but the Bible does not say so. Jesus did mention Paradise, and that is the “best” level or Hades, so He at least went there. And Jesus died for all sinners which would include any who were in the other levels (the Asphodel Meadows and Tartarus), so He may well have gone to proclaim the truth of God there as well. But we must be careful to go further than that in our interpretation, and thus, understanding of the Bible. Jesus went to Hades because those who were there – that is, all who died prior to Jesus death on our behalf – needed to know that Jesus paid the price for sin. His message was meant to deliver them from an otherworld place like Hades into the presence of God after His own resurrection.

For as Paul says, to depart from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5.8; cf. Phil 1.23).

But for you and me, Jesus has already come. He has already died. And He has already been raised from the dead. And thus, we turn to the message that Peter preached, as recorded by Luke in Acts 2, to see what Jesus resurrection can and should mean to us.

The Third Day He Rose Again

First, let me say that I am not dealing with the aspect of the third day in this post. The Bible does say three days and many possibilities exist, but I do not have time to unpack them all. I will say that I personally believe that it is likely that Jesus died on a Thursday.

So, what is less important in these two phrases is not where He proclaimed the message, nor how many days He was dead, but that He rose again.

First, let me speak to the idea of “again.” I was recently asked why the word again is used. It is a fair question because Jesus was not raised twice. As I researched this, the best explanation is found in a close synonym – anew, or even afresh. Others have made a similar argument. (2) Using this idea, Jesus rose anew. He was renewed, and indeed, He was in His resurrection body.

But let us turn to Acts 2 to see Peter’s words.

Beginning in verse 22, Peter appeals to the crowd to take stock of this man Jesus whom they had seen. It was this Jesus who, according to the plan of God, was crucified. But, death could not hold Him. The grave would not defeat Him. And Peter refers to David’s words nearly 1000 years prior when David proclaimed that God would not “let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2.27). The word corruption here means “the pit” (as in decaying in the pit).

It is in this verse, by the way, that we see the use of Sheol and Hades as interchangable. Acts 2.27 begins with, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades…” Peter is quoting from Psalm 16, where in verse 10, David used Sheol. Thus, going back to the previous point, we see that Sheol and Hades were considered as similar in their usage depending upon whether one was speaking in Hebrew (Sheol) or Greek (Hades).

But if Peter had simply quoted David, the people could have believed that David was referring to Himself. So, Peter then revealed that David was more than a king, he was also a prophet.

Read Acts 2.29-31.

David died, but did see decay. He was buried and was still in the tomb. So, God meant someone else. That someone was Jesus. Jesus was buried, but the tomb where He was buried was empty. We have to believe this by faith, but the people who heard Peter’s voice that day could have checked for themselves. In fact, that is what Peter says in verse 32-33. God raised Jesus and Peter, along with the other apostles were simply proclaiming that truth.

What we must understand is that Jesus death was important. It is by the blood of Jesus that we are saved. But it was the resurrection of Jesus that sealed our salvation. Or, rather, I might say, the resurrection confirms our salvation. Paul uses David’s thoughts to say as much in Acts 13.37-38.

In effect, if God did not resurrect Jesus, then we could not consider God to have been satisfied by His death. But because God did raise Jesus from the dead, we can have full confidence that God’s wrath for our sin was satisfied on the cross, if we will only place our faith in that truth.

But before we leave Acts 2, I want to focus on a particular term that Peter used twice. That word is, “abandon.” Again, in Acts 2.27, David said that in the future, the Holy One will not be abandoned. And in Acts 2.31, Peter says that Jesus, the Holy One, was not abandoned to Hades. Hades could not hold Jesus. It was Jesus vs Hades in a death match. And Jesus overcame death.

And because Jesus was not abandoned, we will not be either. Because Jesus overcame death, we can overcome it too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 (verses 54-55, quoting Isaiah and Hosea), “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

But here is the challenge. If God did not abandon Jesus, and Jesus did not abandon us, then we can not abandon others.


Sometimes we feel lonely. We feel isolated. We may feel abandoned. It happens to many people at various times in their lives. But God has a plan. Just like those 2411 aborted babies who were given dignity through a mass burial, as humans, we all have dignity. The death of Jesus for us reveals that truth. The resurrection of Jesus proves it because God did not abandon Him, so Jesus will not abandon us. We must simply choose to be saved by the only one who can truly save us.

Before we can rise again with Jesus, we must be born again by God. As 1 Peter 1.3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

Jesus rose again by the power of God. But the power of God can do more than resurrect a body, it can change a life. And a changed life can truly change the world. The truth of the resurrection changed the apostles from being of “little faith” to being world changers. The truth of the resurrection continues to change lives – live that otherwise might be abandoned – and those changed lives can change the world again!

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

Many of our JOURNEY letters in this series have been the J for Jesus. But today, the focus needs to be on our JOURNEY. Each one of us needs to know that wherever we may be on that journey, God is not done with us yet. If you are doing zealous work for the Lord, He has more for you to do. If you are muddling along in life, God has something for you. If you are feeling hopeless and abandoned, God has something for you. If you are still breathing, God is not done with you…your journey is not complete, so you must consider what you will do for Him during the remainder of your journey.

God made a way for a dead man to have purpose. And that purpose includes you. If He could do that with a man who was dead, how much more can He do for you? How much more can He do through you? But the question is not how much more can He do, the question is what will we allow Him to do?

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE.  Jesus influenced many people while He lived. But it was after He died that He changed the world. Likewise, Jesus bids us to come and die. Once we do, our life is not our own, and so He can do through us what He wants and needs for us to do. It is when we die to ourselves that we truly learn to live. So learn to live for Jesus today by allowing Jesus to live through you.

Who’s Your One? Who’s Your One plus One?

 If we follow through on finding, praying for, and investing in both the one and the one plus one, we can help those individuals to know that God has not abandoned them, that God has a plan for them, and then lead them to help others to find their one plus one as well.

      1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/12/ulrich-klopfer-abortion-fetuses/, (accessed March 6, 2020).
      2. See, for instance, Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-rose-again.html, (accessed March 6, 2020).

“It Is Finished” by Pastor Andy Braams

1 Corinthians 1.17-18; John 19.16-42

Have you watched or listened to the news lately? If you watch it over a two- or three- day period you will see developments happening so quickly it is difficult to keep up. Make those days weeks or months and the pace is alarming. In a recent visit with one of our elder members, he said, and I quote, “I see the way the world is going at an accelerated pace.”

He then mentioned horses – the maximum speed humans traveled for centuries was by horse. And then even when the first cars were made (the Model T), they traveled at the same general speed as a horse. But then, the he mentioned that cars quickly moved to 60 mph, and that we had air travel, then space travel. It all developed so quickly.

But today, the developments are even faster. What about the Coronavirus? Or the locusts in Kenya? Politics are out of control. It is no wonder some people claim that the news is fake – because even news that is real changes so fast it is hard to know what is true anymore. What was true yesterday may not be true tomorrow. (AB – this is not my best PC and FCF, but it will do this week)

But some news doesn’t change, and therefore many get bored with it. The most important news is that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, that news is old, but it is still fresh. Many consider the news of Jesus as out of date and out of style, and would rather talk about the speculation of what we see on TV today rather than the truth of what happened centuries ago.

But the news of Jesus was not just news that day, it was news that was predicted to happen. Read John 19.28-30. “It is finished” requires knowing what “it” is and what needed to be accomplished for “it” to be done.

As we think about the Apostle’s Creed, we can hold tight to the truth of the creed not because of the words in the creed, but because those words are based upon the truth of the Bible. It is the Bible that is true and thus what is directly taken from the Bible must be true too. And today that truth is that Jesus was crucified, buried, and dead.

But it is more than the thought of some man being crucified, dead, and buried. That happened to many people. In fact, two others were crucified and dead on the same day as Jesus, although we cannot know if they were buried. (Likely, they were not, but we do not know, and it does not really matter for our purposes today.)

However, this story is not just about a man, it is about a man who claimed to be God, a man what was God, and thus, He was able to declare that “It is finished.”

So, what was finished? And why is that important?

Let us take a closer look by reviewing John 19.

Jesus Was Crucified

This really happened. Read John 19.18-20.

John writes it, but details are important. Granted John wrote this account decades after the fact (some suggest as many as 60 years later – which is very likely), but people would have still been alive to refute it. Verse 20 says many Jews saw it. They would have told this story to their children and grandchildren. The story they told was either about a lunatic who thought He was Messiah and got what He deserved, or truly was the Messiah and got what we deserved.

But John is not the only one to record this. That is, this story is not just biblical; it is historical. Pilate is mentioned by name. And both Jewish and Roman historians discuss the intersection between Pilate and Jesus (Josephus the Jew; Tacitus the Roman).

Why was Jesus crucified?

      • Because God is holy. And we are not.
      • Because God had to punish sin and deal with its curse and the curse of the Law. For as the Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3.13, quoting from Deuteronomy 21.25). Jesus was crucified by men who hated him, for men who needed him. (Romans 6.23)

Now, many do not like the fact that Jesus was crucified. Some claim God was a child abuser. But the Bible say the word of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1.18). To understand is to receive the grace of God. The reality is that mankind hates Jesus. Men hated Him in Jesus day. They hated Him in Paul’s day (Phil 3.18). And they hate Jesus today. And you and I would be among those who hate Him but for the grace of God – a grace that comes from the sacrifice He made.

So, Jesus was crucified – a process perfected by Romans to make the pain and horror of death as agonizing as possible (as Mike has shared with us before). Jesus received that. We might even say He embraced it – for you and for me. And in the end, Jesus died.

Jesus Was Dead

The crucifixion was the form of death, but it was the death that mattered. Without the death, the wrath of God would not be satisfied. The death of Jesus was necessary because it was upon Jesus that the fullness of God’s wrath was delivered. In Revelation, the wrath of God is revealed as bowl judgments. These bowls are poured out on all who do not believe. These bowls contained sores, water turning to blood, scorching heat, oppressive darkness, water drying up, and a storm and earthquake that is unmatched in human history (Revelation 16).

The intensity of these “bowl” judgments is poured out because of the sin of the world. And yet the true punishment for sin will be much worse and last for eternity in the place called hell.

On the cross, Jesus died so that all who believe (who call on the name of Jesus) will not have to endure the wrath of God on this earth, and will escape the eternal miseries of hell. Jesus death took God’s wrath for us. That is why we call His death the substitutionary atonement. He atoned for our sins by substituting Himself in our place. He did it for you. He did it for me. He did it for everyone. I deserve God’s wrath on me for what I have done, but I do not deserve His wrath for your sins. However, Jesus bore the fullness of God’s wrath for everyone. Imagine the pain, imagine the suffering.

The One who created us, died for us. The one who created was executed at the hands of His creatures. As Peter declared to the audience in Acts 3.15, “…you killed the Author of life…” We may not have been physically present, but we are responsible for the death of Jesus.

But He did die. Read John 19.31-37.

The Romans made certain of it. It was the responsibility of one person to ensure that each criminal was dead. It is said that the penalty for the soldier who did not ensure those being crucified was the soldier would then be crucified. I cannot find evidence of that. However, a centurion, one who led 100 men was in charge and would have been disgraced and strictly punished (at the least) if the individuals were not dead. So, Jesus was dead. We see evidence of this from the centurion’s mouth in Mark 15.39, when the centurion stated, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Furthermore, when Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to ask for the body, the body would not have been granted for burial if Jesus was not dead (most people crucified were not buried, they were left to rot or be eaten by animals). Thus, Pilate would have asked if Jesus was truly dead before granting the request.

Jesus Was Buried

Again, we have details in John’s writing (and in other gospel writings) that help us to know Jesus was buried. Frankly, it could have been enough to say, “And then, Jesus was buried.” Many people might accept that statement, but with the details provided, His burial is assured.

Again, most people were not buried after a crucifixion. But Jesus was not most people, so Joseph and Nicodemus made sure He was buried. We may have to accept the burial for what is said in the Bible, but by John naming names, the people of that day could go to Joseph and Nicodemus and ask – “Did you really bury Jesus?” If it was not true, it would have been refuted. Granted John wrote his decades later, but people would still have been alive, and his statement would have been refuted otherwise.

So, Jesus was crucified. He was dead. And He was buried. Those are the facts. It may not be current news, but it is not fake news. It is real. It has happened. The facts have not change. And those facts from the Bible are preserved in the Apostles’ Creed.

It has been three weeks since we recited any of it together, but let’s take time now to recite the Creed up to this point.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.

Next week, we will get into one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. But we will not stay there long, because Jesus did not stay dead or buried – and His resurrection deserves the main attention.


In a couple of days, many people in this country will go to the polls to vote on what is known as Super Tuesday. In nine days, it will be our turn here in the state of Missouri. But there is one common factor in each person voting. In fact, one common factor exists between those voting and those receiving votes – the fact that Jesus died for each person’s sin. Jesus died for Bernie Sanders. He died for Pete Buttigieg. He died for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. He died for Donald Trump. He died for all Democrats. He died for all Republicans. He died for Independents. He died for those who do vote and He died for those who don’t. He died for you and He died for me.

In a year when candidates are pushing their agendas and hoping that we will tell our friends to vote for a certain person, only one name truly deserves to be known – not because of what He might do for us, but because of what He has already done for us. That name is Jesus. And it is our task to know Him and to make Him known.

For all of the campaigns and all of the slogans, the politician’s goal is to make oneself known. But politicians often make promises that are unable to be kept. The promise Jesus made was even more outlandish – that He would come back from the dead. But first, He had to die. Therefore, like Paul, we are to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1.23). We are to make Christ known – and to do that we cannot separate the work of Christ from the cross.

What was finished? The work of God to fulfill all that had been commanded in the Law. The curse of the Law was broken (Galatians 3.13).

Why was it important? Because none of us could break the curse’s grip. Only Jesus could break the curse. Only Jesus could meet the requirements. And that is why…


Our JOURNEY letter for today is JJESUS.

Jesus had His own journey that day through the streets of Jerusalem and up to the hill called Golgotha. The journey Jesus made was full of pain and tears. But He made that journey because of the joy that was before Him (Hebrews 12.2) – a joy that was to fulfill the will of the Father…a joy that meant giving us the opportunity to be with Him for eternity.

We cannot overlook the fact that Jesus finished His journey, just as it was planned. The purpose of this passage is not to just to tell us what happened, it is to show that God was in control. The people may have tortured and killed Jesus. But Jesus was always in control. It was Jesus who said, “It is finished,” not the people who were trying to finish Him.

NEXT STEP(S)LOVE.  The death of Jesus came from the love of Jesus. Because of His love, He has made Himself known to you. He commands us to make Him known to others because of our love for them.

Who Your One?

Who’s Your One + One?

“Suffered Under Pilate, Suffering for Us” by Pastor Andy Braams

The political landscape in the U.S. is very divisive right now. I will add that it is not as divisive as it has ever been because if you look at the first fifteen years of the presidency, you have Jefferson harshly attacking Washington and Adams, you have scandals and misunderstandings that light the fuse of hostility time and time again, and you even have a sitting vice-president (Aaron Burr) shoot one of the most brilliant minds this country has ever seen (Alexander Hamilton).

But sometimes the level of divisiveness is very apparent. This week, we saw the end of an impeachment process against the current president. We witnessed an absurdly partisan State of the Union where nearly one-half of the participants were less than unengaged (if that is even possible), a partisan act by the president who gave the nation’s highest award to a man who alienates one-half of the country, and the leader of the chamber where the speech was made tear up the script that is constitutionally required to be given to Congress.

And because of these facts, most will say that they are suffering through another election cycle. That is, the actions of others create a tension that causes us to suffer. But tension in politics is nothing new. And neither is suffering. In fact, much of the suffering in the world is directly related to politics – and you are I are responsible.

The suffering of which I speak is not just emotional turmoil that can disappear if we turn off our televisions and radios. It does not disappear if we cut off communicating with others. The suffering is real because of sin. The suffering is real because we think that we are in control. The control we seek may not be an office like a councilman or councilwoman, it may not be that of a mayor, or of a representative in our democratic republic, but nonetheless we all seek control. And by we, I do not mean the collective. I mean you – individually. And I mean me.

The control you seek, and the control I seek, is because of sin. It is the control of our lives instead of yielding ourselves to God.

And thus, Jesus suffered. In the truest sense, Jesus suffered because of a political situation. But in the fullest of measures, Jesus suffered because of our sin. And He did not just suffer, He suffered greatly. Why? Because we do not want someone else over us – we want control. Thus, as Matthew wrote in Matthew 27.18, “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him (Jesus) up.”

This series is about the constancy of God in the midst of the cultural changes around us. As such, we are focusing on the timeless truths of the Bible, with specific attention being given to certain doctrines of authentic faith as packaged in the Apostles’ Creed. But as much as the world has changed, and is changing, one other constant exists besides God – the nature of our sin.

And so, for the purpose of covering our sin, not His, Jesus suffered and died. As Matthew 27.26 says, “Then he (Pilate) release for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified.”

Why does the suffering of Jesus matter? Why did this phrase need to be included in the Creed? Let’s take a closer look.

When We Are Lord Over Others, Jesus Is Not Lord Over Us

I need to clarify this statement. Leadership is important. People need leaders, and many great leaders exist. And leaders will ask us to do things that may seem beyond us. Leaders may push us to do things that are uncomfortable. In fact, I would argue that a good leader must do this, at least occasionally. Certainly, Jesus did that. And Jesus still does that.

BUT, in Mark 10, Jesus says that some leaders “lord it over them” (v. 42). That is, some leaders simply want the power. They have selfish motives. And if a leader is only desiring power, then that leader is probably not willing to submit to Jesus.

On the other hand, a humble leader, or a servant leader, still leads. These leaders may still require a great deal of their followers, but they do so in a way that respects, and even lifts up, others.

In Matthew 27, we find that Jesus has been betrayed and has been handed over to the governor of the area. Verse 3 then tells us that one person who has misinterpreted the power of Jesus now ends his life. That is, Judas kills himself because he wanted power. He wanted authority. He wanted to end the Roman rule and wanted to have an important part of reigning with the new leader – the Supreme Leader, Jesus.

But that was not Jesus’ aim – at least, not during His first coming.

Then, the story turns to an encounter with Jesus standing before Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27.11). Jesus does not give an explicit answer. Meanwhile, the religious leaders – who thought more highly of themselves than they should have thought, accused Jesus of various crimes (we see a similar process before the high priest in Matthew 26.57-68).

Again, Jesus gives no answer. The governor, Pilate, is amazed.

A few verses later, Matthew provides a unique detail. Pilate’s wife sends him a message as he is about to release a prisoner. The message is essentially to make sure Jesus goes free.  But Pilate does not really care. He goes through the motions of a tradition (the prisoner release), but if he really wanted to do so, he could have simply released Jesus. Yes, it would have caused him trouble with Rome, but doing things for Jesus is not always meant to be easy – in fact, it is rarely easy.

Pilate was more concerned about maintaining order. He was more concerned with staying in control. But Pilate also did not want the responsibility (“he took water and washed his hands”Matthew 27.24). The religious leaders wanted control. And let’s be honest, most of the time, we are the same way. The problem is that when we focus on ourselves, we may maintain a level of authority, but we must ask ourselves: Are we doing this for our benefit so we can be lord over others, or for the sake of others because He IS Lord?

Jesus Suffered Under Pilate, So His Blood Would Cover Us

Read Matthew 27.27-31: 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Roman army was known for their efficiency. They would march nearly 18.5 miles per day carrying all of their equipment which included supplies and tools for building their siege towers. The Romans were also brutal and particularly so when they retaliated against others.

But it was more than mere brutality – for many empires of the past have been horrific in their brutality. But Romans turned their brutality into sport (such as in the Coliseum) and games.


The point of their games was not only to torture the prisoner, but to humiliate them as well. Thus, the king should have a crown (of thorns in the case of Jesus). The king should have a beautiful robe, so Jesus was given a robe – which when pulled off would have pulled at the scabs from His wounds.

The game in this picture was similar to a board game we have today. Only, instead of moving a piece around the board and drawing a card, the place you landed told you what you got to do to the prisoner and perhaps what you were to use in doing it. In Matthew 27, we see a few things they did (crown with thorns, strike him with a reed, etc.). But it is the word scourged (v. 26) that is the most troubling. This word reveals the action of the beating with the whip with multiple strands that had the bone and metal embedded.

If you have seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, it is this scene that is the most difficult for people to watch. He truly suffered. But the truth is – the movie cannot fully represent what happened to Jesus. I know I have told this before, but the story is worth repeating. During the filming of this scene, Jim Caviezal, the actor who portrayed Jesus, was actually hit with the whip a couple of times. Most of the lashes hit a post which was behind him, but a couple of blows did land directly – and it hurt! And yet, we can assume the director yelled, “Cut,” and the action stopped. For Jesus it did not stop. The suffering would only intensify. And He went through it for us.

The people who cried out for Jesus to be crucified made a strange statement on that day. As Pilate sought to distance himself from the situation, the Jews cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27.25).

Ironically, Jesus’ suffering under Pilate was done in preparation of the greater punishment of the crucifixion, by which the blood of Jesus was poured out to cover us. But sadly, if we treat His suffering, His death, and His blood with disdain as the people in this chapter of the Bible do, our sin is not covered. His blood is meant to cover us, but it only does so if we believe.

Jesus Was Willing to Suffer For Our Sake. Are We Willing to Sacrifice Our Desires For His?

The story of Jesus’ suffering includes others. It includes the suffering of Pilate’s wife, as I mentioned above, but it also includes Barabbas. Barabbas was an insurrectionist and was in jail awaiting a likely execution, but Pilate honored a tradition to release one prisoner – leaving the choice to the people. Did they want Barabbas? Or did they want Jesus?

When Pilate sent for Barabbas, we can only guess what he was thinking. But my guess is that he was probably thinking it was time for his death. But that was not the case because Jesus was there to take the suffering of Barabbas too.

Jesus experienced suffering on many levels that day. He was tortured physically. He was bearing the burden of our sins spiritually. And Jesus suffered emotionally having been betrayed and abandoned in the Garden.

But Jesus came knowing He would suffer and die. And He invites us to do the same. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” (1)

The following is a selection of verses that capture this idea well.

Romans 12.1: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Galatians 2.20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 3.8-11: 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

2 Timothy 3.12: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,…

Or in the words of Jesus as recorded in Luke 9.23-24: 24 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

But notice that Jesus said that such suffering will bring God’s blessing.

Matthew 5.10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We are not to seek the suffering, but we are to be prepared for it. Again, Paul says, if we are living for Jesus, we will be persecuted! And Jesus said, we will be blessed because of it.

Jesus suffered. We must be ready to suffer as well. But if we do, we are to do so for standing for the truth – a truth that is represented by the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,…


We talk about suffering through another election season. And maybe it is a form of suffering. But Jesus suffered. He suffered because of a political system. But He suffered because of sin.

Many walk away from faith because God allows suffering. But God does not simply allow us to go through it…He willingly endured it Himself. That is love. And because of that love, He has made a way for us as well, but that way will include suffering. But remember, no politician, no friends, no coworker, or anyone else can truly hurt you. They may hurt the body, but Jesus said, we are not to fear those who can kill the body because they cannot kill the soul (see Matthew 10.28).


Our JOURNEY letter for today is once again JJESUS.

We have heard what Jesus did. And we have heard that we are called to do the same. But one key is what makes it possible. The key to understanding suffering relates to the timeframe. We may suffer in the short term, but something better awaits (c.f. 2 Corinthians 4.16-18). Yes, Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, but we must remember what Jesus told Pilate first, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18.36).

NEXT STEP(S)LIVE.  Last week, I said our step was to LEARN. As we take time to LEARN that God truly has a plan, we can confidence in He is still working at the right time, in the right way, using the right person, for the right reason. And that is true, even when the result is suffering – as long as the suffering is for His sake.

(1) – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 99.